I want to share with you guys my adventure
of becoming a ham operator. I got my license and myself a 817nd. The reasons for the 817 were primarily the low power consumption and easy powering in the field without carrying heavy loads and expensive equipment. That was crucial for me as I am on a tight budget for that kind of things. Most of my budget goes into my homestead so I had to really struggle with what to buy. I wanted a rig that was scalable if necessary but stripped off if I need a light and portable rig. You know, that kind of a rig that fits in a sidepocket of your bug-out bag. Or if you want to make a contact, so you don't haul 10kg of gear up a hill. Buying a tuner+50Wamp brings me to the same price as the 100W rigs. So I don't see a mistake in buying the 817nd.
When I first got the 817 I thought: holy shit that thing is small! I have big fingers and takes some efforts to reach the buttons at first. BUT
, it can do everything. HF, VHF, UHF and thats the thing that got me, plus it can run on batteries for hours. I even listened to airband some day and tracked the planes on an Android app. You can do everything with this thing, I didnt even dig into digi modes yet. I think this is the best radio for emergency preparedness. It's small, lightweight, low power, multi-talent, solid built.
The next thing was to get my first antenna. Although I prefer to build my own stuff, I ordered the QRP Guys Triband and the Z Match Tuner. I had real issues on tuning the 40m band, I removed 4 windings on the toroid which is loading the antenna to get it somewhat below 2.5 and then with the tuner I can get it below 1.8. Antenna + Tuner = 50$. Nice budget friendly price.
My next project is a linked dipole and an EFHW antenna. I got the wires and everything already done, I am waiting for the toroids to make a 1:1 balun for the dipile and a 9:1 unun for the 9:1 endfed.
My first time going on air was just recently. And I can say, with QRP it is soooo difficult to get a contact. No one hears you. Maybe it's also the antenna (can't wait to finalize the dipole and the efhw). The funny thing, all my contacts until now where from Belgium and those station where some club/special event/anniversary stations... So I assume they had very powerful antennas high up in the air so they could hear me.
Yesterday I spent the whole day on my homestead, slowly grilling a chicken and doing some QRP. All day = 3 contacts.
Another almost succesful contact was a German somewhere around Hamburg. The sad thing is, he didn't even try to copy my signal twice. After the first time he repeated half of my callsign and the second time he said "negative copy", and took the other station. Pretty rude >:(
Anyway, I had succesful QSOs over 1000km away. What a thrilling experience ;D
Well done! Not a bad start really. You will get better at it. The 817 is a good choice and does everything. Now you need to make a portable Yagi for 2m SSB!
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Thanks GIL, It's already on my toDo list. Just have to get 6 old thick guitar strings for the beams.
Congrats on your ft817 purchase. I've never owned one but I don't think you can go wrong with one.
I have done some QRP SSB though, and I can say, it's not for the impatient. Contacts are rewarding and as Gil says, with practice you will make more and more. There are tricks to QRP, like calling a guy right after he finishes a QSO with someone else (tail ending), checking into nets, break into a rag chew where the people sound friendly and inviting, answering other's CQ's rather than sending one yourself.
A good way to test the abilities of your station is to make contacts with people you know are listening for you. Set up a sked with someone on this forum or any other of the numerous web forums. Send an email to someone in your local ham club asking if he's free for a sked. Even during this time of low sunspots, 80 meters NVIS works wonders, even at QRP, for local and regional contacts. Or activate a SOTA summit and spot yourself. You will be the center of a pileup in no time and most of your chasers will give you realistic signal reports.
A great forum to set up skeds with people is the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC). They have a webpage just for setting up skeds with other people who use a straight key. It's a great way to get your feet wet with CW. Since everyone is using a manual key, the speeds are slow and the people patient. Plus, for QRP, CW has several db advantage over SSB and your experience making CW QRP contacts will be more akin to making SSB contacts at 100 watts.
You've got a great setup. Stick to it and don't get discouraged. If you're not careful it may become an addiction.
Quote from: vwflyer on June 01, 2018, 11:00:15 PMI looked into that a while ago. Think I read somewhere that they consider semiautomatic bugs (e.g. the original Vibroplex) to be manual keys. I am not able to relocate that rule now; is this correct?
A great forum to set up skeds with people is the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC). They have a webpage just for setting up skeds with other people who use a straight key. It's a great way to get your feet wet with CW. Since everyone is using a manual key, the speeds are slow and the people patient.
That's true, they do, because there is no electronic keyer involved. Sides swipers and cuties are also aloud. Pretty much anything that doesn't involve electronics. But straight keys still rule there and whatever type of manual key is being used, speeds are still relatively slow.
So yes, I went to the local hills and tried out the triband once more. I managed to do a contact as soon I got on the air, Croatia to Greece, around 900km. Later I laid the radials all to the north and then I got England but couldnt get trough the pileups. I called CQ for 10 minutes and then quit as a friend stopped by.
Ham radio is like a drug... actually it's quite like fishing. You throw your lure into the water (CQ) and wait for a bite ;D
Great contact, a 57 is a good signal report. The vertical seems to be very quiet. Around here it is hard to find a place where the QRM is low enough to hear anybody unless I drive a long way to the mountains. I keep trying.
Thanks Joel. Yeah on that spot there aint so much noise than in urban areas. Its my favorite camping spot, will do a camp night there with my radio, to try out the propagation at night :)
I made a video of my little adventure:
Great video, hope Lana is okay.
She is getting better! She havnt puked for two days.
Your set up sounds good. The FT-817/818 must surely be the "Swiss Army knife" of ham radios?
It is maybe also worth remembering that we are around the bottom of the sunspot cycle. Over the next few years, as HF propagation improves, it should get easier to make QRP contacts.